Sky Miles are probably the worst of the Big Three airlines’ miles to collect. Sure United and American aren’t so great themselves, but Delta devalues Sky Miles so often and so suddenly that it’s entirely conceivable that they’ll be completely worthless in a matter of months. As I’ve written about before, one of my bigger strategic errors was applying for two Delta cards in July of ’16, since I had no use for the miles. In general, I usually say just to apply for cards regardless of whether you have an immediate need for the miles (since you never know when you’ll need a bunch of whoever’s miles), but it’s a little trickier with Amex, given that you can only get each bonus once.
To wit: I felt pretty good about myself after pulling in 110,000 miles across the two cards, but I felt less good when business class saver awards increased from 62,500 to 70,000 miles shortly thereafter… and even less good when partner awards went up to 85,000 miles. And then the kicker: the “highest ever!!!!” bonuses that I applied for were both increased by 10,000 miles the following summer.
As a result, I haven’t really paid much attention to Delta’s credit cards, since I’m sitting on a six figure balance that’s rapidly devaluing, and I don’t have an immediate use for any additional miles. If the past trend repeats, we’ll soon see 80k and 90k offers as the points continue to be worth less and less, and so I’m in no hurry to use up my once-per-lifetime bonuses just to pad my existing stash of Sky Miles.
Today, however, my mailbox surprised me with a rare example of what’s quickly becoming the churning equivalent of finding a $1000 bill on the ground: an Amex targeted offer with no once-per-lifetime language. Justine got one of these earlier this year for the Premier Rewards Gold, not even a year after she canceled that same card. It almost seems too good to be true, and so I read the terms and conditions ten times before I decided to apply. (I also pulled up the T&Cs online and did a ctrl+F for “have or have had” and various permutations.)
When there’s no lifetime language, the decision calculus is entirely different. The offer is time-limited, and it may never come back. I was lucky enough to be targeted, and I’m almost never targeted for Amex offers anymore. I don’t want to tempt fate by ignoring it and being all like, “Eh, I’m just like so over Sky Miles, you know?” Plus, the offer is fantastic: 75,000 miles after $3000 in spending (50k after $2000 in three months and 25k after an additional $1000 in six months), waived annual fee, AND a $50 credit toward a Delta purchase in the first three months. The only kicker is Amex’s new anti-churning language, promising a visit from the death squad if I cancel the card within 12 months.
(As an aside, I’m curious about how they enforce this, especially when my MO with Amex is to cancel the card after my annual fee is billed, which usually happens around 13 months after I open the card. I may keep this card open for a second year and eat the $95 just to play it super-safe… after all, I’d certainly buy 75,000 Sky Miles for $150 (that’s the $95 annual fee plus some cash back thrown in as the opportunity cost for spending $3000 on this shitty card.))
The timing here is great too – I just finished the spend on my Charles Schwab Platinum card, and I have around six weeks before the new Hilton cards come out. I was all excited to go back to my normal spending patters, maximizing all my category bonuses and whatnot, but I guess I’ll be in Delta-land for the time being.
One other note: I was given the choice between a personal and a business version of this card. Since I’ve held the personal version in the past, it occurred to me to play it safe and get the business version. See, that way I’d be guaranteed to get the bonus, even if I missed some once-per-lifetime clause hidden somewhere in the terms. In the end, I decided to stay with the personal version, since this way I won’t be disqualified from future special offers on the business version that do have the once-per-lifetime restriction, whereas I was already disqualified from those offers on the personal card.
Lastly, shout out to the design team that put this mailer together. I’m a sucker for any sort of paper engineering (pop up books, fancy cut-outs, screw-post binding, etc), and so the pop-up 3D photograph was very much appreciated. I keep getting offers from Chase’s United cards that I can’t take advantage of, and those are always boring and flat. At least Delta is putting some effort into their physical marketing materials! (Don’t forget, I’m a bookbinder in my spare time, so I really do care about this stuff to an insane degree.)